Christian? Check!

Some people have checklists that they use to evaluate their objects of affection. However, these checklists rarely exist to weed out prospective relationships; instead, they help us to justify our feelings.

A range of traits can appear on these lists, from “sense of humor” to “super cute” to “plays an instrument”. Whatever we feel our ideal mate would be, we put it into our list.

If you’re a believer, one term that makes it on the list at some point is “Christian”. We wouldn’t want to be unequally yoked! But how much weight does this item truly carry?

“He’s a Christian.”
“I think she believes in God.”
“He goes to church sometimes.”

All we need is for our sweeties-to-be to give some indication that they could classify as “Christian”. Then, we can check it off of our list and delve into relationship bliss.

However, I would argue that “Christian” shouldn’t appear on a Christian’s shopping list for a holy hottie to spend their life with.

Am I advocating for Christians and non-Christians to engage in dating relationships? No. I’m advocating for purpose and thought behind our expectations. I’m advocating for standards instead of justification.

Instead of finding a cute guy or girl who seems to have what we’re looking for, and clarifying later that they’ve been to church…

Expect the fruits of someone who puts God first in their life.

It comes down to priorities. Do you want someone to push you towards Christ? Someone who won’t only listen to you, but will appeal to a higher power with you? In your hopes of finding your life mate, do you hope that they will love the Lord their God and honor Him in all they do? Or do you hope that they go to church?

I not only hope that they are rooted in the church, but that they are rooted in Christ. That is what we need, even if we don’t understand why we should want it. It’s so much easier to just say, “Yes, they’re a Christian,” especially when we feel lonely. Despite that, I hope you’ll join me in making this conscious decision, even if it feels difficult. I promise you, you’ll appreciate it later.

 

Baskets of Figs

As a believer who is living for God, our existential questions are answered. We know where we came from and where we’ll go when we die. We have knowledge from the Bible that we may not understand, but we have faith in and trust. However, this doesn’t keep us from asking questions. The most prominent question we can ask is, “Why, God?”

Things happen that we don’t understand. We deal with unbelievable loss, sorrow, and hurt. Why, God? Why did this happen to me? Where are You in this?

Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” It is easier said than put into practice. Committing your heart to someone else is scary. It goes against our sinful nature, filled with pride, to not lean on our own knowledge.

This brings me to the baskets of figs.

The book of Jeremiah is filled with the rebellion of Israel and Judah. God’s people turned away from Him. They turned to their sinful nature, worshiping false gods and behaving despicably. As I have read through Jeremiah, I have recognized myself in the pages. I have recognized our society.

Then, we arrive at Jeremiah 24. It describes, through the analogy of figs, how God preserved His people. There were good figs, and there were bad figs. The good figs represented those who were exiled to Babylon. The Lord said in verses 6 and 7, “I will watch over and care for them, and I will bring them back here again. I will build them up and not tear them down. I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them hearts that recognize me as the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly.”

I don’t know about the rest of you, but being exiled from my home country does not sound like care and protection. I see being ripped from everything I had ever known. Sent to a place that does not understand me. Torn from the land promised to my forefathers. Broken. Shattered.

Why, God? Why has this happened to me? Where are you in this?

Isaiah 55:9. God’s ways are higher than our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. We cannot understand His plans, and we are instructed to reach out in faith and to trust Him. Even when we feel as if we are being stripped of everything, God is in control.

Read Jeremiah 24. Be reminded of God’s sovereignty and favor. As we wrestle with why He has allowed something we cannot comprehend, remember he orchestrates all things for our good. Romans 8:28. Just as He called His people into exile to preserve them, He has called you into something too great for your understanding.

Spring!!

I’m inside too much. I stay holed up in my room, either sleeping or at my desk. When I leave, it’s to travel to the kitchen, the bathroom, or the living room. I don’t remember the last time I was outside just to be outside.

So, rather than start on my Civics homework, I decided to talk a little walk outside. Sure, it’s February. But the sun is shining!

The air and the sun felt so smooth on my skin. The grass is starting to green. The pavement of the patio isn’t hot to the touch, only warm.

I love it. Spring is so wonderful. A rebirth of the outdoors. I can’t wait until it is actually spring!

But in the meantime, I will enjoy the springlike days in February.

Take some time to go outside today, even if it isn’t nice out. Just appreciate what God made.

And then go back inside if you get cold.

Prayer Answered

The first scholarship competition I attended was at a Christian university. The second was at a secular one in another state. Finding someone who had that basic common ground–befriending them through only a short half-day event–that was going to be challenging.

It was considerably smaller, and I was able to wear slightly more comfortable clothes. There wasn’t an essay to write this time. Only an interview and panel discussions.

When I walked in that morning, I had my pick of seats. I almost sat at a table with a young man, but remembering what had happened last time, I moved on to a different table with a local girl, who had already committed to this school.

I interacted sparingly with a few different girls, until we finally reached what they described as “speed dating”; five tables with professors who had eight minutes to describe special minors and programs. I sat at a mostly empty table, and was joined by another girl.

“Hey,” I said. “My skirt sort of matches your shirt.”

“Yeah, it does!” she laughed.

“Where are you from?” The professor asked.

I told him.

“That’s strange,” the girl said. “Because I’m also from that town.”

Of all the people!

She goes to a Christian school where I sold books at a craft fair last May. She went to church with a good friend of mine when she was younger.

Of all the people!

I found it rather odd that my prayer was answered at a different school, but it was answered none-the-less and I am thrilled.

Thank You God!

My Hiking MVP

We went hiking this weekend. I was excited, since it was my fourth time around on the path. My second time leading someone blindfolded. I’m not very good at hiking. This year, especially, the incline had me incredibly out of breath. Before we left, I communicated to the leader that I wasn’t feeling well. My stomach was causing me pain, along with my hip and my ankle. However, I made it to the top, and the view was breathtaking.

The way back was rough. Last year, I was the last one up the hill. The previous time, I was last. I didn’t want to be last again, but I remember that final stretch to be horrible. Something found in my nightmares. A terrible upward segment to the end.

This year was no different. It was awful. I lost my partner only five minutes on the return journey. I was clutching my water bottle like a lifeline, and only allowing myself to drink when I absolutely needed it. A number of people passed me.

And finally, when the back of the line had reached me, and I pushed myself harder, I found myself surrounded by a small trio of friends. One girl in my level, and two others I’d had as campers.

My friend engaged me in conversation. I shared my testimony first, and then we discussed college and our futures. The conversation kept my mind off of my pain, and distracted me from what felt like a never-ending walk.

As we drew closer to the end, she and I decided to pretend the woods were actually Narnia. At the time when the White Witch had just begun to lose her powers, and the snow had melted, and the beginning of spring was peeking through blossoms. As we passed some white flowers, we imagined they were snow blanketing the ground.

I don’t know if I would have finished without her. Looking back, it was her talking to me that kept me going, and I so appreciate her willingness to walk with me.

I Was In the TV

About two weeks ago, I saw a link on Facebook. It was for an “Author Spotlight” on a show called Good Day PA; and the lady featured had written a children’s book. My friend who does my covers had illustrated one of her books, and I watched the interview for fun.

Then I saw the button. “BE A GUEST”, it said.

Well, how can you not listen to a button like that?

I clicked it, and followed the consequent steps to possibly appearing in this segment of their show. One mailed package and several emails led to another, and I was scheduled to appear on August 25th, 2016.

This might be a fun time to mention that I had yet to figure out this was a live broadcast, and just because there was no studio audience didn’t mean that it was pre-recorded.

But anyway.

I got there an hour after I wanted to be–and technically a half an hour later than they’d asked me to–but I’d emailed while I was stuck in a miserable interstate traffic jam to let them know what was going on, and they were very gracious about it.

So I sat. Nervous. Terrified, even; in a little conference room with professional, older women who had official businesses or doctorates. And I tried not to be incredibly stressed and panicked.

But all went well, dear readers! I think I did rather okay. If you’d like to see my interview, the link is right here.

They misspelled my name, but I’ll forgive ’em.

Drawing the Line

This post isn’t offering answers; only questions. It has come to my attention, at the ripe ole age of seventeen, that there are certain divides in our culture. And to be honest, I don’t really understand how to Biblically resolve all of them.

Take teenage dating. Within the Christian faith, there are many opinions on this issue. Some say it’s fine, and to date around to figure out what you want. Some say not to date at all, only to court. Some read a book which called for us to kiss dating goodbye, and others say God will tell us who to marry, so don’t worry about it. Where should I stand? Where does God stand?

Say I pick a side on the teenage dating debate. Now I have to decide what I think about physical contact. I know Christians who won’t even touch each other. Some save their first kiss, while others make out with each other. Some hold hands, others hug, and still others set different boundaries. The only thing Christians agree on is don’t sleep together. So where should I stand? Where does God stand?

How about this detour: Harry Potter. For some of you reading, you just squealed with delight. Others gasped in horror. I was brought up to believe it was bad, demonic, witchcraft. Those things are bad, so stay away. Yet, I know so many Christians who love Harry Potter. Where am I supposed to stand? My friends are not evil for enjoying it, as far as I’ve noticed. They are good, sweet, loving Christian girls. But if Harry Potter is so bad, how can they watch it? I watched a Harry Potter movie just a few days ago, for the first time. I enjoyed the characters, the plot, the political themes I saw. Yet my parents were disappointed in me. How can these two opinions exist, between God-loving people? Where am I supposed to stand?

There is no general consensus on any of these things. We could bring together all of my Christian girl friends, and we would disagree on almost all of these. We all think and believe different things! How do I stand with God, and where He wants me, when I can’t even find agreement between friends who love Him, too?

Where do we draw the line, as Christians? As those who fear the Lord? Those who believe differently, are influenced by different denominations? How can we come together and agree with one another, because the Lord says so?

I’m just a seventeen year old girl who wants to serve God in what she does. I would never wish to inadvertently do something He disproves of, because I love Him. I have a feeling that He will be teaching me a great deal about line drawing in the future.

What about you? What is your opinion on Harry Potter? Tell me what you think, and why, in the comments below. You have no idea how much I’d love to hear your answers.

NaNoWriMo – Round 5

You’d think, that after my fifth go around with the whole, “write a novel in a month” thing, I’d be a pro. Laughing at the rest of my friends from my cloud of writing glory, as I bested my word-count goal and created the greatest manuscript I’d ever seen.

Pffft.

It started out great. Within four days, I had written ten thousand words. Then, I got a little sluggish. I had a lot of characters, none of whom I could get rid of. I had a bunch of stuff to juggle within the story and just in life in general.

My schedule was so light with schoolwork, I actually worked two weekends at camp, giving up prime writing hours to take pictures of children and run chapel sessions.

About day fifteen, I was really struggling. The words weren’t flowing. The ideas were taking too long to set up. I had so many goals inside my brain, so many things I wanted to communicate, and they wouldn’t come out.

Even worse, this particular story focuses on the majority of my characters growing up and tackling harder issues. It’s like watching your children go off on their own: these were my children, and my heart ached for them.

So I pushed. The lessons, they were too important to give up on. I had to try to write this, this story, even if it hurt.

I made it. November 25th, I met my word-count goal.

Don’t get me wrong, this story needs a lot of editing. A lot. But I made it. I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t made it. Maybe scratched out the idea of the story. Burned the file. I certainly don’t think I would have been motivated to keep on going, to finish, and to fix.

But I did it. By the grace of God, I did it. And even though this particular year posed a lot of NaNoing struggles for me, it was the first time I cooperated and wrote with Him. It’s a lot of fun: He’s the perfect author, after all.

The Ultimate Plot Designer

This is part three of a series titled, “The Ultimate Author”. Click here to see part one and part two.

So, to recap, God made a countless number of beautifully complex and unique people; and then He put them in a beautiful and complex universe; now what to do with them?

Well, He did that, too. We’ve already seen in Jeremiah 29:11 that He has plans to prosper us, to give us hope and a future. Ephesians 2:10 promises us, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

So, God planned out our whole lives. He has plans for good works; plans for hope and prosperity.

Does your life ever feel incredibly complex? Whether you’re involved in a lot, or you feel you have a lot of internal or external battles? Or you feel like you can’t handle it all? God has designed our lives with an incredible complexity.

Again; as a writer, I’m not too bad at plots. But can I make the claim that even one of my characters has a complex life and plot? No. I really can’t. My characters usually manage a plot within their family, at school, and at youth group.

But He can say that every person He’s designed has a complex life and plot; He can say it about everyone He ever created.

Sin messed up our world; and our lives have ups and downs and swirls and twirls and a dip here and there: but He has made plans for good works, hope, and prosperity. Not only has He made the plans: He promised us.

Is your mind blown?

The Ultimate Setting Creator

This is part two of a series titled, “The Ultimate Author”. Click here to see part one and part three.

Not only did God design billions and billions of people; He also gave them a beautifully unique setting to live in.

I aspire to design a world like Narnia or Middle Earth. I’d love to write a novel with my own races of mystical peoples in a creative setting. However, anything I’d create would be piggybacking off of everything I know. And everything I know was created by Him.

He went and created all these people–countless numbers of people–complex people–and then he gave them an amazing setting to live in.

We have a gorgeous blue sky; luscious green grass; clouds with a fluffy consistency; diverse trees and plants; sandy beaches with glistening water; majestic mountains that soar high into the air; flat plains where we can see far into the distance; rivers that cut through land rich for planting. And that’s just on this part of the setting. We look at a slightly bigger picture, and we realize that there are countless beautiful stars and planets and galaxies and–is your mind blown yet?

As a writer, that much detail is unimaginable for me. To have created all of that from scratch? All of it. Not just what we see on Earth, but what’s beyond? I could never accomplish that.

But He did. And all He had to do was talk.